Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Remember these strange objects?

Film strips! They were once everywhere, handled ever so gently in case they gotten scratched or worse; held up to the light with straining necks and loupes; and filed away in anti-static polythene sleeves. I have files and files of these damn things, of images taken over the years. Luckily, common sense prevailed early on and I filed them logically according by date and place. So searching for images should be a doddle. Last couple of days I began scanning 20 or so images of which I am preparing to print for an exhibition in the fall. These photos are from my KL book so searching for them was relatively easy as they were taken over a period from 1998 to 2000. This was also a test of my filing system. Suffice to say, I found all 20 frames with little strain and effort. Yes! My filing system works.

The next task was to scan them to the required resolution and size. This was fun to start with, going through old negs was a trip down memory lane. What interested me wasn't the selected frames, but those that were 'rejects', the pre- and post-frames of the chosen ones that did not see the light of day and hence did not graduate into prints.

Examining the sequencing of images, on negatives or contact sheets is invaluable to a photographers' thought process. This I learned at a photojournalism course back in 2001 at Speos college in Paris and is something I still practice when editing. We were given daily tasks and to shoot 3 or 4 rolls of film to tell a story. Each day, we processed and contact-sheeted the films for analysis by another participant. It was very interesting to understand how each person 'saw' and photographed his or her story, how the final frame was chosen by the course director and reasoning behind his choice.

I did say this was fun to begin, but once the negs are scanned, then I would envisage hours spent on the computer 'processing' the images. 'Spotting' is still done, not with a thin brush and Spotone, but with clicks on a mouse..colour balancing, sharpening etc. These processes still take skill and time. The digital lightroom however is a more pleasant process, has no smelly chemicals and light-sensitive paper, cluttered bathroom, etc.. and I can do it in daylight whilst listening to the radio or watching TV!

The last roll of film I shot was 2 summers ago, and its still in the camera!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Master of Venus

Last Friday I had a 'last minute' portrait assignment. My photographer friend Laura had a family emergency and asked if I wouldn't mind stepping in to take her place. I obliged, jumping at the opportunity to add to my portfolio. The job was to photograph a well-known author in trendy Notting Hill for La Nacion, a news organisation in Argentina. They are working on stories of British authors.

Now, my knowledge of British authors are practically nil, apart from Salman Rushdie, who was in the news recently and perhaps, Ben Elton! It turned out that I had to meet with and photograph none other than Pakistani-British Hanif Kureishi.

A quick google on his name churned out hundreds of pages about this talented playwright, novelist, and film director. His most famous work was 'My Beautiful Laundrette', a screenplay about a gay Pakistani-British boy growing up in 1980's London, directed by Stephen Frears. His most recent movie was Venus in 2006, starring Peter O' Toole.

As usual with these sort of interview cum photo sessions, time is always against you. My journalist colleague Juana only had 30 minutes with him and I had 15 minutes at the end to take his portrait. We met at his Literary agent's offices and was shown to a dark office full of books on one wall, and several chairs. Mr Kureishi was pleasant enough but straight to the point. No small talk. Right, let's get on with it. In situations like these, I tend to become more 'professional' in attitude. I am here to do a job and so is he. I managed to shoot around them as they talked and also after the interview, outside in the main office where the light was better.

Technically, I used the fastest lens I possess, the 85mm f1.8, which I absolutely adore and used mainly on my MALAYSIANS book. A few shots were also taken with a 28mm f2.8 where I needed a wider view. Overall, I was pleased with the session, given the time constraints.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Salisbury - finding the light

After a portrait session with one very colourful Datuk Yunus at Covent Garden today, I stumbled into The Salisbury for a quick bite with a friend. This Victorian pub in the West End oozes charm and a bygone atmosphere not unlike something from My Fair Lady or a Dickens story. The interior is totally mahogany panelled, covered with stained mirrors with ornate floral embellishments, velvet covered stools and warm flamed light fittings. Its wonderful for moody portraits and I remembered I shot Oliver Coates here in December 2005.

Oliver is a brilliant cellist and he needed a promo portrait. The soft light from the large windows at the front of the pub was ideal for the mood we discussed beforehand and hoped to achieve. By the way, the food is pretty good too...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Tis the season to be wedded..!

The wedding season has begun, and I shot my first wedding this year last weekend in the charming Cotswold countryside. I am not a prolific wedding photographer, maybe squeezing 5 or 6 a year only. And of these I tend to cover events in London and the Home Counties. Firstly, congratulations to Andrew and Susie, who got hitched last weekend, and are now on their honeymoon in Greece sunning themselves for 2 whole weeks. The setting was fantastic, Lords of the Manor hotel grounds in Upper Slaughter, a string-quartet, classic car, village church, 80s style disco and karaoke, the full works!

The village church was a medieval Norman building of stone, and internally it was quite dark. I wasn't allowed to photograph during the ceremony at the altar, which is quite usual. However, I was allowed to do so from the back without flash. This was fine, but due to the low light levels, it was a challenge to keep a steady hand. Fortunately, my Canon 5D has excellent noise control at high ISOs.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

First entry

Hello and Welcome to my new blog on contemporary photography, insights and related activities. I will be discussing my new book being launched later this year with supporting text by Haliza Hashim-Doyle, and forthcoming major photography exhibitions from around the world. I am also a bit of an equipment junkie, so perhaps I will be reviewing some hardware although I tend not to get bogged down about equipment too much nowadays. Your comments are most welcome.